Category Archives: Exhibits


Wayfinding on view through September 25

MCLA GALLERY 51 TO EXTEND ‘WAYFINDING: A solo show by Melanie Mowinski

NORTH ADAMS, MASS. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) will extend the exhibition of Melanie Mowinski’s “Wayfinding” through September 25, 2016. Please come and meet the artist at a reception during  DownStreet Art night on Thursday, August 25th from 5-8 pm.

“Wayfinding” is about trusting the way and understanding the many paths to get to the same destination literally and figuratively. Through installation, letterpress, book arts and collage, artist Melanie Mowinski presents an investigation of the motivations behind the paths taken in life.

While on sabbatical from her position as Associate Professor of Art at MCLA, Mowinski was one of three visiting artists in Venice, Italy at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica, served as an artist­in-­residence at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts in Nebraska City and traveled to Memphis, Chicago, Clarksdale, Miami and New York City. In each of these cities or towns, she tracked her walks and wayfinding with a combination of data from electronic devices, drawings and writings. This information became the source for many of the drawings and artist books in “Wayfinding.”

Mowinski cultivates experimentation in her artwork alongside traditional bookbinding and art making practices, in addition to repetitive mark­making, which is the hallmark of this exhibition. One of the primary symbols in her artistic iconography is the simple dot that she clusters in two­-dimensional form in drawings and three-­dimensional form in the installation, “What Can Happen in a Year.” The dot represents a myriad of possibilities literally and metaphorically.

“I am continually drawn to the act of repetition as a form of prayer and meditation, whether it is making a mark over and over, creating the same sculptural object, or editioning an artist book, that act of repeating becomes the thing that grounds me in my process and focuses my attention.”

She also gravitates towards one-­of­-a-­kind artist books housed in unusual and traditional enclosures including Please Forgive Me, Parallel and Appetite for Egress, which are part of this exhibition.

Her artist books under the imprint 29 PRESS are in private and public collections like the Crouch Library at Baylor University, The Free Library of Philadelphia, The Ruth Hughes Collection at Oberlin College, Tate Modern Museum of Art in London, and the Love Library at the University of Nebraska­Lincoln.

Mowinski is the 2016 recipient of the Cultural Council Northern Berkshire Individual Artist Grant. CCNB is one of the local branches of the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is the Commonwealth’s public liberal arts college and a campus of the Massachusetts state university system. MCLA promotes excellence in learning and teaching, innovative scholarship, intellectual creativity, public service, applied knowledge, and active and responsible citizenship. MCLA graduates are prepared to be practical problem solvers and engaged, resilient global citizens.

For more information, go to

Special thanks to Nicole LeClair for the photographs in this blog post.

Forgive Me: Getting Ready for Wayfinding

My exhibition Wayfinding opens at MCLA’s Gallery 51 in a smidgen over a month from today. (July 28, 2016)  There are about a half-dozen in progress pieces/artist books that must be completed by the install. Every day I get a little closer to being ready.

Sewing Forgive MeYesterday I stitched together 28 signatures into the book Forgive Me, a book inspired by the Hawaiian forgiveness meditation and ritual Ho’oponopono.  Anyone who has ever navigated the process of forgiveness knows that it can by a difficult path. Ho‘oponopono was introduced to me as a meditation practice where one repeats four phrases over and over. Kinda like the Metta prayer. There are other ways of practicing it too. Read more about that here.

The four phrases are:

I’m sorry.      Please forgive me.     I love you.     Thank you.

Simple, right? Maybe. In finding my way through this thing called life, forgiveness comes up again and again. How do we forgive each other? Ourselves? The many different atrocities in our world? How can we hold a lightness in our heart when so much hatred and anger fills our society? Perhaps Ho‘oponopono and Metta can help. This book repeats those phrases over and over as you read through it, becoming the meditation itself. I’m currently fantasizing about exhibiting it on a table with my pink velvet chair next to it, inviting that meditation.

Greek Sewing diagram, Keith Smith

I printed each of these phrases over and over onto each one of the 28 signatures that were first painted with various inks and gesso resists. Then I bound them together using the Greek Sewing from Keith Smith’s Non-Adhesive Binding Volume III: Exposed Spine Sewings. This is a ridiculously fun binding where one half of the text block is sewn to one cover and the other half to the other cover. Then the two halves are joined using a figure-8 type stitch. The stitching feels a lot like the caterpillar stitch, if you know that one, and just like the caterpillar stitch requires fierce concentration. No chatting on the phone while sewing this book.

Fully open trial Greek Binding I chose this sewing because it can result in a slightly swollen spine, a no-no for many bindings, I want this book to be displayed completely open, and a swollen spine will do that. Here’s what it will look like from above when displayed. This is the mock-up book–loving it already.

The book will be housed in a custom made box using a glorious scrap of hot pink paper backed silk. I have exactly enough of it to do this. As long as I don’t make any errors.  If you want to see the finished book in all its glory AND its box, be sure to put July 28, 2016, 5-7 pm on your calendar. See you DownStreet!IMG_0029


Running to Iowa

I spent a good part of the past four weeks at an artist residency in Nebraska City, right on the Missouri river across from Iowa. The Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts (KHN) was my host– and a damn good one. If you are looking for a residency with very little outside distractions, comfortable accommodations and an excellent letterpress studio, this is the place for you. This was my second time at KHN–so I arrived knowing full well that there really are no distractions.  Very quickly you realize that the only thing to do is go to your studio, so you do, and that’s when the magic happens.

Studio progress

Studio progress

Many people wondered what a residency in Nebraska must be like after six-weeks in Venice. My response is PERFECT. I needed some place where I could work and process all that I have experienced in the past few months. (Did I mention that in the past 20 weeks, I have spent only 24 days in my own bed? That’s a lot to process.) I gave myself permission to do whatever I wanted, to follow my whims and to not be concerned about making anything worthy of my upcoming exhibit, Wayfinding at MCLA’s Gallery 51.

KHN Drawings 20165What fun! I started making these great drawings that pick-up on some elements of the artist books that I created in Venice. And the best part–they WILL be part of the exhibit. I need to make seven small ones (18×48 inches), finish the large one (4×8 feet) and make a second large one (4×4 feet). AND, I have to make 300 three-dimensional dots. Notice the common element…lots of little dots. Lots of them. Endless dots. I dream about them. They are all I want to make right now. Thankfully. I don’t know why, but I love  them.

The exhibit opens July 28th at 5 pm. MCLA’s Gallery 51, big thanks to them and to the Massachusetts Cultural Council that awarded me an independent artist grant to do this work.

KHN Drawings 201612 KHN Drawings 201611KHN Drawings 20161



So why is the post called Running to Iowa?

Nebraska City is about two miles from the Iowa border–which is at the center of the Missouri river reachable via an interstate bridge. The thought of running to Iowa captivated me the first time I was here, but I was too chicken to do it. I ran to the bridge a couple of times at my regular weekday time, but by 7:45 am the semi-trucks were already out in full force.  I determined that Sunday at 7 am might have the least amount of semi-truck traffic for me to run on the barely two foot brim of the bridge. And I was right. It was the last thing I did in Nebraska before beginning my return back to Massachusetts.

The large drawing is about running to Iowa–about all those things we obsess about, that we try to reach over and over again but our fear gets in the way and prevents us, until one day it doesn’t. This drawing is dedicated to all of us who overcome those little and big fears that keep us from our dreams, however small or large.KHN Drawings 20168

waxing my third eye, Venice edition

waxing my third eye SG0As part of my residency at the Scuola, I am honored with a solo show in their gallery. I thought it would be towards the end of my residency, but I discovered five days after arrived, that it needed to happen, well, right away, to open today January 20th, with the install on the 18th. (I arrived on January 7…I’ll let you do the math.)

Thankfully I brought with me a few prints, an artist book, and an idea/vision. And then the past week I’ve been in the studio all day making little red “balls”, setting and printing type, stitching and constructing. And I finished last night! Here’s the statement:

Waxing My Third Eye presents experiments on paper and artist books involving pressure printing, painting and stitching on paper, and handset letterpress type by American artist Melanie Mowinski. In meditation, the third eye becomes the focus point between the two actual eyes. There are some people who believe that the third eye is a partially dormant pineal gland between the two hemispheres of the brain. Others look at it as the place of connection with the actual pineal gland that resides near the center of the brain tucked in a groove where the two halves of the thalamus join.  Regardless, when focusing on this point during meditation one can access what Descartes believed to be “the principal seat of the soul and place in which all our thoughts are formed.” Attention to this inner eye allows the meditator to connect to one’s internal and external world as witness with an eye to acceptance of the impermanence of life. The work in this exhibit evolved from explorations of using this focus point to alleviate pain and anxiety that Mowinski experienced as she muddled through a year of surgeries due to breast cancer. (If this is new to you, click on this link for a wee bit of back story.waxing my third eye SG3 waxing my third eye SG4 waxing my third eye SG5

My vision of the exhibit is that you start with I am Brave, which I began making to help prepare me for the mastectomy. Then you move through the red yarn and little red dots, which are often part of my work, and symbolize struggle, loss, and calm through meditation. As Kiki Smith says “I think there’s a spiritual power in repetition, a devotional quality, like saying rosaries.”waxing my third eye SG6 waxing my third eye SG7 waxing my third eye SG8


Next comes a series of small compositions, 5×5 inches, some with letterpress text, most with stitched additions like dots and pathways. waxing my third eye SG11 waxing my third eye SG12 waxing my third eye SG13 waxing my third eye SG14 waxing my third eye SG15 waxing my third eye SG16

This transitions abruptly to a different color palette, into the first work I created after the mastectomy while at Wells this summer. And finally, a new book made just this week which represents that it’s time to move forward.

waxing my third eye SG17 waxing my third eye SG18 waxing my third eye SG19

In gathering all of this together, sitting with it for the past two weeks, I feel like I can let it go and move forward. This will always be part of me, but will not define me.

In retrospect, the pressure became a gift. It forced me to make the work I’ve been struggling to make for the past six months and reminded me of Parkinson’s Law: work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. I’m certain that had I not had this deadline thrown upon me, the work would have stretched over my entire time here in Venice. Now the exhibit is done, and I can get on with other ideas that are bubbling!

Big thank you to those who helped make this exhibit possible:

  • Matilda and Lorenzo at Scuola for inviting me to come for a residency for six-weeks.
  • Hyemi, Scuola resident coordinator for her help installing, and her vision. This young women made compositional connections with some of the smaller pieces as she installed it resulting in links I couldn’t see because I was so steeped in the making.
  • Deirdre Kelly, Scuola exhibition coordinator for her help installing and the insight for layout.
  • Nina Molin, who came up with the title during an hysterical conversation about hair removal a couple of weeks after the mastectomy
  • Doctor Lockhart, for pushing me to sort through the remaining emotional, spiritual and psychological residue from losing a breast.
  • And always, to Douglas Molin, who lights my life daily, whether we are near or far from each other. I am so grateful for your support and unending belief in and love for me.


Paper words in Knoxville


Isaac Wood and Denis Sinclair help me press the water out of the paper pulp.

Isaac Wood and Denis Sinclair help me press the water out of the paper pulp.

Prints in Peculiar Places was a series of special “printstallations” that took place during the 2015 “Sphere” Southern Graphics Council International conference. Working with the City of Knoxville, the KCDC Public Building Authority, the L&N STEM Academy and various private business owners, the “Sphere” organizing committee have identified a series of locations where printworks were installed during the week of the conference.

My paper words project was chosen to be part of this special installation project and as part of it, I made eight new words with the help of three of my students from MCLA. Here are some pictures of the installation. I will be hanging the words again in two weeks as part of Art Along the River, a project of the Hoosic River Watershed Association in Williamstown, the weekend of April 18-19.

PaperwordsKnoxville1 PaperwordsKnoxville2 PaperwordsKnoxville3 PaperwordsKnoxville4 PaperwordsKnoxville5 PaperwordsKnoxville6 PaperwordsKnoxville7


Getting ready for SGCI in Knoxville

SGCI: Southern Graphics Council International’s annual conference will be meeting beginning tomorrow, March 18th in Knoxville, Tennessee. I’m thrilled to be participating as one of the Prints in Peculiar Places artists, as well as in two of the Inkubator conversations. I challenge you to take a look at the Inkubator conversations and the first person to correctly choose and name in the comments the two conversations in which I am participating will get a “word” of their choice. (See below for the words.)

For my Prints in Peculiar Places installation I have made some new paper words and will be installing them in a copse of trees at the L&N STEM Academy in Knoxville. I’ll be hanging them between 2-5 pm on Wednesday, tomorrow, provided my flights are on time! If you are in Knoxville, please stop by and say hello. Here are the words ready to go. DSC_0107

Some of you might remember when I first did this installation in Rittenhouse Square in 2005. At that point I only had five words. I made nine new words, eight that were chosen by the L&N students: hope, joy, wish, laugh, live, share, smile, hope and the ninth, heal, that I chose. Many of the words were made by MCLA students’ Isaac Wood, Denis Sinclair and Angela Digennaro. Big collaboration and help!

I am extremely grateful for the MCLA students and only wish they could also attend the conference. I look forward to posting pictures from the install. Stay tuned!


Viewpoints on a Green World

I’m excited to be part of this panel discussion in conjunction with the exhibit WinterGreen at Gallery 51on Thursday, February 26 from 5-7 p.m. I get to share the panel with three other really amazing women.

VIEWPOINTS  final PosterJoan Edwards, Washington Gladden 1859 Professor of Biology at Williams College; Shannon Toye, Certified Traditional Herbalist; and Sharon Wyrrick, Farmer, Many Forks Farm. We each will be talking about how plants factor into the work that we do as artist, biologist, herbalist and farmer. Should be fascinating to hear the different intersections between our viewpoints.

Hope to see you there!

Hello, owl?

This morning as I was waking up and performing my morning ablutions, I noticed an unusual mass in the birch tree outside the back of our house. It was still pretty dark, barely dawn. The shape hunkered on the branch, this was no graceful perch. Yet there was a delicacy that indicated it was either a hawk or owl or some other bird of prey. I went to get the binoculars, hoping it would not move. My reward–to see that indeed it was an owl, most likely a barred owl.

These kinds of sightings always feel like omens to me. Owls are linked to witches, deception, darkness and trickery, but also wisdom, truth and change. The owl’s eyes as seen through the binoculars looked kindly at me. What came to mind was the quiet love of an animal friend, coupled with the strength of a bird of prey.

Why owl, why? Four-color reduction linoleum print.

Why owl, why? Four-color reduction linoleum print.

I made a print about two encounters with an owl a couple of years ago–a memory that still stays with me. You can read about it more here and here.  Coincidentally this image is going to be appearing on a billboard in Berkshire County any day now as part of Pittsfield’s annual 10×10 festival’s 10 Spot exhibit. It will also be on view at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts in Pittsfield, MA, beginning February 6th, with an official opening on February 12th. I do hope you get to see it.

Half the Sky–a book object

When Paper Dresses incubating, I began folding origami paper dresses. I used the pattern designed by Alison Reisel (Who coincidently happened to be in North Adams for the Paper Dresses opening! Isn’t that amazing! We were so delighted to thank her for her brilliant design!)

I kept folding them and folding them. Using all kinds of colored paste papers that I have made over the years. I knew I wanted to do something with them that made them into a “book”.

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The book object is a box of origami dresses with different quotes ranging from text from the 19th Amendment and Title IX to statements and tweets from current events related to violence against women and children and how the NFL has handled it. This piece was directly inspired by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book Half the Sky and upcoming visit to MCLA as well as email conversations with Kristen Leslie, one of my former professors from when I was at Yale University.

As I folded each of the dresses and hand wrote the text on the back of them, I meditated on how far we have come as women and how far it is to go. That violence happens to women young and old, here and abroad.  I am continually reminded that my bubble that includes strong leadership by women is not the norm in most of the world. For change to happen, we need to look beyond our own bubbles and strive to make a difference. This piece is as a much a reminder to myself as it is a call to you, the viewer, to find a way to foster a better global world for women.

Want to do more? The following four steps are from Kristof and WuDunn’s book, Half the Sky:

  1. Go to or and open an account. Both sites are people-to-people (P2P), meaning that they link you directly to a person in need.
  2. Sponsor a girl or a woman through Plan International, Women for Women International, World Vision, or American Jewish World Service.
  3. Sign up for email updates on or
  4. Join the CARE Action Network at


It’s Time to Let Go

The Paper Dresses opening at PRESS proved to be a magical evening.

If you were unable to make it, one of the highlights of the night was the  “happening/performance” starring two dresses by Diane Sullivan and my Let Go dress.

Big thanks to my MCLA colleague in theatre Laura Standley and three of her students, Courtney McLaren, Crysta Cheverie, and Kelsey McGonigle. They created an evening to remember. Please enjoy this slide show of the performance. Imagine the first few songs of the Amelie soundtrack and you might just be able to picture how the happening happened. Another big thanks to summer BHIP intern Nicole LeClair for taking these pictures!

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The performance began with all three young women walking into the gallery at various speeds and intensities, moving backward and forward and in and around people and artwork. After about 5-10 minutes of this, Courtney, who was wearing the Let Go dress stopped. Crysta and Kelsey then began inviting people to come and tear off the part of the let go strips written with various statements. Sometimes it was very easy to tear off the strips, at other times quite difficult. Once torn, they were to be left to the floor. Gone, having been let go. This went on for a few minutes then the young women returned to the starting movement before taking up positions in the window where they moved slowly for a little while until they were released.

This dress evolved out my interest in what other people hold onto. Over 250 people contributed statements over the course of the summer. The top “thing” that people hold onto, according to this very informal poll, is fear. I shared this with my father and he reminded me of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. I wonder what our world would be like if we all let go of fear.

During the opening, the various “let go” statements were torn off the dress and left to the world, as a reminder of how sometimes we need someone to help us let go, as well as that it is sometimes just really hard to let go…